HOPE VALLEY — Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner chose Hope Valley Elementary School for his last school visit before he begins his new position as a senior fellow for education policy and practice at Brown University.
Angélica Infante-Green has been named as Wagner’s replacement and will take over the commissioner’s job next week.
Hosting Wagner and Deputy Commissioner Mary Ann Snider on Tuesday morning were Hope Valley Principal Giuseppe Gencarelli, Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci and Assistant Superintendent Jane Daly.
Hope Valley had been selected, Wagner said, largely because of its students’ progress in mathematics, as reflected in their Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System test scores. The standardized test is administered to students in Grades 3 and 4.
“We wanted to come here because of the great work that we had heard about, especially in math,” he said. “On the test scores, we saw a lot of growth in math and we wanted to learn more about that.”
Daly said Wagner was interested in the procedures and systems that had contributed to the school's performance.
“What he wanted to do on this visit was to learn about what systems and curriculum and assessments are in place to help with those growth scores in math," she said. "I found him to be very interested in what they’re doing here at Hope Valley, to see if there are practices that could be used across the state.”
Among other things, the school has an intensive intervention protocol to help students who are struggling, and specialists in reading and math. The improvement in math scores also contributed to the school’s five-star state rating, the highest ranking awarded by the Rhode Island Department of Education.
“When our schools perform well I feel very good, whether someone visits or not,” Ricci said.
After meeting in Gencarelli’s office, the group toured the school, beginning with a Grade 1 music class. In the next classroom, Jeanine Mankoff’s pre-kindergarten, the children surprised Wagner with cards they had drawn.
“I didn’t know they were going to do that,” Gencarelli said, smiling.
Gencarelli said he was excited to show Wagner and Snider around the school.
“They had mentioned that because of our high math growth scores, they wanted to come see what we’re doing at this school,” he said. “Overall statewide, math scores were not good at all. Ours weren’t great, we were somewhere in the 60 percent proficient, but it was much higher than a lot of other schools in the state. But our growth, those kids, where they’re the previous year and where they ended up this year, the gap closed significantly.”
Snider was particularly interested in the kindergarten classroom, which was quiet as the children worked on different t tasks.
“This is exactly the kind of environment kids need, where they’re learning joyfully, but there’s intentional instruction about how words work together,” she said. “They’re independent, they’re persistent, it makes me happy that this is a Rhode Island school. It’s really terrific.”
Wagner said the Chariho school had been an appropriate choice for his final visit.
“I think it’s fitting to have my last school visit be in Chariho,” he said. “I’ve always had tremendous respect for Barry Ricci and his job as superintendent, leading the district, and I’ve also thought this was a great school … Chariho has always struck me by its sense of community and by its sense of pride and passion in the work.”